It is no secret Atlanta Falcons’ running back Michael Turner has not been as productive as he has in past seasons, but that may have been part of the plan.
Each of the last three seasons, Turner has carried the ball at least 300 times, as Atlanta was among the league leaders in rushing. This season with new offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter, Turner has seen a reduced role and his also split time with fellow back mate, Jacquizz Rodgers. Koetter has the Falcons throwing more and has turned Matt Ryan into one of the top quarterbacks in the NFL statistically. Atlanta is offensively, the most explosive it has been since the June Jones era. Anybody remember the old “run-and-shoot”?
Heading into the final game of the regular season, Turner has 216 carries for 782 yards. He won’t come anywhere close to 300 carries and he certainly will not reach 1,000 yards. Despite all of that, Turner has still manage to produce nine touchdowns and with the exceptions of that loss against the New Orleans Saints, he has been a reliable running back, even in fantasy leagues.
Koetter and Turner hoped to limit his carries this season so that the running back could be more rested as the playoffs approached. Turner has even said himself that this is the best he has felt as the end of the season, which could be a good sign for the Falcons. Teams like the New England Patriots and Green Bay Packers have been able to win championships without much of a running. Atlanta actually has good running backs though, which could give them an edge heading into the playoffs. The Falcons haven’t shown much life running the ball but you do have to respect them against the run on third down because of the potential of Turner and Rodgers. Who knows, Atlanta might opt to run the ball a little more in the playoffs on third downs, especially since Turner is so fresh.
If a well-rested Michael Turner leads to a championship then Falcons fans won’t mind so much not seeing the production they are used to from one of the best backs in the league.